3D printing is a great tool for making things, but it could also be used in surgery. A 3D-printed model of the blood vessels inside of the brain of a patient has offered surgeons a way to practice the surgery that saved the woman's life.
The surgeons needed to operate in order to correct an aneurysm in a blood vessel inside the patient's brain, however, scans of the problem showed that the typical method of operating on an aneurysm would not have worked.
The patient was New York resident Theresa Flint, who was was told she had an aneurysm that would have been fatal had it been left untreated. An aneurysm is basically a blood vessel that is bulging and is at risk of rupturing. Usually, surgeons will use a small basket to strengthen the wall of the artery, however, this wouldn't have worked in this case because the blood vessels were severely twisted.
"It was a serious problem from the standpoint that she had an extremely irregular brain aneurysm that would be tricky to treat with micro-surgery," said Dr. Adnan Siddiqui, chief medical officer at the Jacobs Institute, in an interview with the BBC. Siddiqui concluded by explaining that although all humans have common characteristics, everyone's vascular treee is as unique as fingerprints.
For this case, doctors used the scans of the patient's brain to create a 3D model in partnership with 3D-printing company Stratasys. The company made a replica out of a polymer that is similar to human tissue, which allowed surgeons to plan their surgery.
In fact, during the mock procedure, the doctors realized that they had to change some of the tools they were using due to the patient's anatomy. Because of these changes, doctors say that Flint has "done great" since her aneurysm.
According to the doctors, 3D printing could be increasingly used to plan procedures and make models of patients' anatomy, helping surgeons be able to plan their surgery.